Banner

"...if anyone makes the assistance of grace depend on the humility or obedience of man and does not agree that it is a gift of grace itself that we are obedient and humble, he contradicts the Apostle who says, "What have you that you did not receive?" (1 Cor. 4:7), and, "But by the grace of God I am what I am" (1 Cor. 15:10). (Council of Orange: Canon 6)

Contributors

  • Rev. John Samson
  • Rev. David Thommen (URC)
  • John Hendryx
  • Marco Gonzalez

    We are a community of confessing believers who love the gospel of Jesus Christ, affirm the Biblical and Christ-exalting truths of the Reformation such as the five solas, the doctrines of grace, monergistic regeneration, and the redemptive historical approach to interpreting the Scriptures.

    top250.jpg

    Community Websites

    Monergism Books on Facebook

    Blogroll

    Latest Posts

    Categories

    Archives

    Ministry Links

  • « Corporate Confession of Sin | Main | Justification by Faith, Out of Date? by Benjamin B. Warfield (1851-1921) »

    My One Concern about the T4G Statement by Pastor John Samson

    I'm excited about the Together for the Gospel Conference's recent statement release. It will act as a dividing line of sorts, showing who is able to sign it and who is not, which will expose whether or not a person, ministry or church is concerned for the biblical Gospel in our day. That to me is a very good thing. We need to know who is with us as we stand together for and in the Gospel.

    As Jason Robertson rightly points out in his blog, "The purpose of this document is defined in two sentences found in its introduction paragraphs: We are also brothers united in deep concern for the church and the Gospel. This concern is specically addressed to certain trends within the church today. Thus, it is clear that this document is not a doctrinal statement. There is no need for a new doctrinal statement or creed or confession in our generation. But having a list of specific affirmations and denials "concerning certain trends in within the church today" is very helpful."

    I think the statement is very needed and have no hesitation signing my name to it. I do have one concern though. There was one sentence in the statement that bothered me... only one... but it was this one:

    We further deny that any teaching that offers health and wealth as God's assured promises in this life can be considered a true gospel.

    Why did it disappoint me?? Because the sentence, as it stands is far too vague. I know what the writers were aiming their guns at - the errors of the word of faith movement (and rightly so) - but as I see it, the statement here is simply not clear enough. As it stands, it has the potential of causing anyone who believes in Jevovah Rapha (Exodus 15:26 - the Lord our Healer) and Jehovah Jireh (Genesis 22:14 - the Lord our Provider), and prays for healing and provision with any kind of expectation in this life, to live in fear that they are holding to a false gospel? That, to me, would be a very sad thing indeed.

    If someone receives Divine healing, what is the result? I'd say greater health (for the glory of God). Likewise, if someone receives Divine provision, what is the result? I'd say, greater wealth (again for God's glory). Wealth of course is a relative term. But certainly a man without a blanket, who then gains a blanket, is wealthier as a result. To just make a general statement concerning "health" and "wealth" then not only hits out at the extreme, but makes a direct hit on what I believe to be a very legitimate concept - the willingness of God to meet the needs of people. There will be no need to pray for healing or provision in heaven. There will be no sickness, and there will be no needs, as we walk the heavenly streets of gold. We'll not witness even one Divine healing service there, and there will be no need for miracles. We'll not see a blind eye opened, a deaf person healed, or even someone receive miracle provision to be able to pay their rent. Heaven knows of no need. Thank the Lord!

    Of course, the statement is not an infallible one. No one has claimed that it is. I believe it is a very biblical, insightful and needed statement. However (I am speaking only for myself here and not for the other contributors), I feel more time should have been given to make sure the wording of this particular sentence meant that the guns were pointed and fired at the extremes of the faith movement (which is obviously what was intended), without just generalising the issue and making people reticent to talk about believing the many promises of God in the Bible that covers physical and material provision. As I am sure we would all affirm, there aren't just one or two scriptures in this regard... the Bible is full of them.

    I would still sign the document because I understand what was meant by the words that were used.. but I believe that the wording needs much more refinement to be helpful to everyone. We need to allow for the thorough exposition of all of God's word, including the parts which show God's willingness to meet human needs in this life, and I feel this sentence encroaches on this, at least as far as the written words communicate. It would be very sad if we as Christians, in light of the new T4G statement, now felt reticent to reach out to hurting people to pray for their physical or financial needs because we thought it might be a betrayal of the Gospel. For what its worth, this is my one concern.

    Posted by John Samson on May 6, 2006 12:01 PM

    Comments

    John

    But is not the statement made about "the Gospel"? How are we defining "the Gospel" here? Whatever promises there may be in the word about divine healing, it is not directly related to the promises we hold out in the Gospel every week to those who believe, is it? Do we EVER hold out the Gospel and tell people if you believe then you will infallibly be physically healed right now in this life. I don't think so. But we do hold out the promise of the Gospel and say, "anyone who believes can with certainty, based on the promise of Scripture, know that their sins have been forgiven. They are God's children, adopted into His family in Christ." The difference, I think, is profound. '

    They say, We further deny that any teaching that offers health and wealth as God's assured promises in this life can be considered a true gospel

    The statement I think is very clear. They use the word "assured". Can you assure people based on the promises of the gospel, that they will with certainty be healed physically now? Is that the gospel John? or even remotely related? So your statement, I believe is fallicious when you say that they are claiming anyone who believes in divine healing is teaching a false gospel. Where does it say that? No, it says that anyone who teaches that they will with certainty be healed based on the promises of the gospel are in error. They might even believe in divine healing themselves.

    I could likewise fault the statement for spending far too little time on the necessity of the new birth ... in fact I was stunned by its absence. But perhaps they were focused on other issues in the church.

    Also, I disagree with your wording on another front. I think we desperately need a clear doctrinal statement/creed in our generation. There is no accountability in our churches because if a church disciplines someone they just go to the church down the street. We need broad agreement on what the gospel is and what the truth is. Evangelicalism is not healthy right now. People are so worried about offending one another. But a HUGE percentage of the evangelical church is WAY off. When the statement talks of the recovery of the gospel it is obviously directed toward people are not preaching it at all. Protestants seem to begin new sects every few hours. It is hugely debilitating to the Church. Our disunity is staggaringly hurtful to our cause. what is and what is not Christian needs to be clearly defined...

    Just clarifying ... I know you would not largely disagree with what I said above ... but thougt this would alleviate any misunderstanding of those who read this. You are correct that the words could be even more precise. If someone such as yourself might be concenred then obviously others would too. So another sentence in that section might do the trick.

    Your brother in Christ
    John

    Hi John

    You wrote: "But is not the statement made about "the Gospel"? How are we defining "the Gospel" here? Whatever promises there may be in the word about divine healing, it is not directly related to the promises we hold out in the Gospel every week to those who believe, is it?"

    I agree.

    You wrote: "Do we EVER hold out the Gospel and tell people if you believe then you will infallibly be physically healed right now in this life. I don't think so."

    Yes, I agree.

    You write: "But we do hold out the promise of the Gospel and say, "anyone who believes can with certainty, based on the promise of Scripture, know that their sins have been forgiven. They are God's children, adopted into His family in Christ." The difference, I think, is profound."

    Again, I agree... We could also say how futile it would be to be physically healed or financially provided for in this life and not embrace the Gospel. In the light of eternity, physical or financial provision is quite trivial. But the love of God is such that He is able and willing to meet these needs of ours in this life.

    The Gospel is not about health or wealth, healing or provision, peace of mind or restitution of all relationships... The Gospel is about the person and work of Christ as He reconciles all those who believe in Him to His Father. My concern was the practical aplication of the current wording of the statement if applied by Christians on a grand scale. I am sure you understand that.

    You write: "Also, I disagree with you on another front. I think we desperately need a clear doctrinal statement/creed in our generation. There is no accountability in our churches because if a church disciplines someone they just go to the church down the street. We need broad agreement on what the gospel is and what the truth is. Evangelicalism is not healthy right now. People are so worried about offending one another. But a HUGE percentage of the evangelical church is WAY off. When the statement talks of the recovery of the gospel it is obviously directed toward people are not preaching it at all. Protestants seem to begin new sects every few hours. It is hugely debilitating to the Church. Our disunity is staggaringly hurtful to our cause. what is and what is not Christian needs to be clearly defined..."

    Perhaps I should clarify myself a little - I agree wholeheartedly with this paragraph you write... I share your passion and concern infact. What I meant was that there was no need to redefine the Gospel or come up with a NEW definition of the Trinity, etc., etc. However, that does not mean there is not the need to provide a statement to say in so many words... "do you or do you not believe the historic confessions of the Church regarding the Gospel." I am all for that... I actually think we are on the exact same page here John.

    You write: "I could likewise fault the statement for spending far too little time on the necessity of the new birth ... in fact I was stunned by its absence. But perhaps they were focused on other issues in the church."
    Yes. That would appear to be the case.

    Brother John Samson

    Thank you for the conversation and the clarification. I figured we were one the same page for the most part. If others read this just thought some might have these same questions I did.

    shalom

    John,
    Don't we have the confessions already? We have the historic WCF of 1646 and the London Baptist Confession of 1689. The Cambridge Declaration of 1996 and the Gospel of Jesus Christ:An Evangelical Celebration in 1999 should be more than enough to define the Gospel for us as evangleicals.

    Larry

    you said >>>>should be more than enough to define the Gospel for us as evangleicals.

    Then my question is why doesn't it define the gospel to most? Why does most of evangelicalism stray so far from these confessions? How many evangelicals would adhere to your London Baptist Confession of 1689 or even come close to it? The vast majority of churches these days have a statement of faith which is so generic that it is almost meaningless.

    We seem so afraid to have a church counsel in this age to divide sound doctrine from heresy. The very act of defining heresy is itself heretical to most modern evangelicals. And so now there are very very few boundaries people cannot cross.

    The gospel may be defined by those confessions, for us, as you say, but no one else pays any attention to them, except for a few of us stragglers. These counsels and confessions are nearly meaningless unless we apply them somehow. If all Christianity is, is being nice to one another and believing the abortion and homosexuallity is wrong, then we are in trouble. Are we going to stand up for the truth of the Scripture, the truth of grace in Jesus Christ, being irenic, yet strong ...or we going to continue on as we have been spinelessly? It seems we don't have the stomach for it.

    And even if we did have a council, since we are so individualistic and divided as evangelicals, that I am not sure it would make any difference. If we are going to recover the gospel, as the statement affirms then either we define Christians as something, or we define Christians as anyone who claims to be, even if they deny the Trinity or the gospel. A recent major Christian magazine did a large survey of who is most influential as a Christian and the number one person this year was TD Jakes, a man and ministry who denies the Trinity. Is this acceptable that so many voted him #1 (can someone even be a Christian and deny the Trinity?). ... and #2 was Joel Osteen. Does this man even know the gospel himself? The fact that this does not alarm anyone is itself VERY alarming. Has the church become so much like the culture that we cannot differentiate? We all agree that outside the church all should have the right to believe as they will. But if one wants to be a Christian, then we should broadly agree to standards that will have wide pressure and consequenses if not adhered to. I dont know what that would be but without any discipline at all we have no future as evangelicals. Mark my words.

    I believe the much of the American church has become just like the world in its democratic values ... rule by opinion poll, rather than top down God given truth. While we must be humble in evaluating the truth, we cannot thereby make ait a free-for all. But this is exactly what we have done. We seem to have no problem standing up for moral values, so why is it so difficult to stand up the same way for doctrine. Virtue springs from good doctrine. How many evangelicals think they are better people morally than pagans? Is this perhaps because many of us haven't the least understanding that only grace makes us to differ with others, not our behavior or moral values? God did not save us because we are any better, but because He was merciful to one, like me, who justly deserves condemnation, save in the mercy of Jesus Christ alone.

    Nicely done, brother. It is sad that the church is going passive in proclaiming the gospel of grace.

    En Cristo

    Neither health or wealth (in this life, which is what is obviously implied) are "assured" nor "promises", nor are they part of the 'gospel'. So no one can argue that the statement is not fully TRUE. Its that simple. There's no problem with praying for blessings, and surely money, health, a promotion, a good meal, a good rain falling on my crops, I would not see any theological problem with asking God for any of those nice things which are all granted even to the reprobate as part of 'common grace' (he makes the rain to fall...) but have absolutely nothing to do with the gospel, and it is extremely helpful and boldly clarifying that T4G has delineated that distinction.

    Hi Steve,

    Obviously, health and wealth is NOT the Gospel. I've said as much in the comment I gave above. But lets imagine a person looking at James 5:15 in their Bible which says "the prayer of faith will save the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up," and lets say they interpret this as an "assured" promise of God. My concern is that at face value, the T4G statement would mean that this person believes another gospel. Isn't that the implication of the statement? and isn't that going too far.. however misguided we might think the person is? I know people who are genuine christians, as far as I can tell, who believe James 5:15 is an "assured" promise of God. There are perhaps millions of Christians who believe this? Are we now to say that all of these believe a false Gospel and are not saved? I'm just asking.


    John,
    The person you describe who thinks James 5:15 'assures' and 'promises' physical healing will occur every time in this life would be wrong; however, that would not be something to divide over UNLESS the person also tried to make THAT PROMISE part of the essence of the gospel (as much of the health and wealth gospel and most televangelists it seems have done) so that it WOULD be worth dividing over... and thats all T4G has done, said that such error is not part of the "gospel" for which Paul said it was worth anathemizing people for if they brought "another gospel".
    1

    Hi Steve,

    I understand that.. you understand that... health and wealth is not a part of the Gospel itself... However as a pastor I get to see real human beings who have not been trained in systematic theology or the science of biblical hermeneutics. They just love Jesus, read the Bible in English and believe what they read. What you and I understand and can differentiate because of a theological background are things the average Christian has either never heard of or certainly never studied for themselves.

    A couple of scriptural examples here in addition to the James 5 one I raised:

    Are you saying that someone who interprets Psalm 103 "He forgives all my sins and heals all my diseases" in a literal and assured sense is going to hell?

    How about Isaiah 53, which, as I am sure you know, is perhaps THE prophetic passage in the Old Testament foreshowing what Christ would achieve in redemption for His people. Even there, the literal Hebrew words speak of Christ bearing our sickness and pains. Dr Young's literal translation of Isaiah 53 reads:

    Verse3
    He is despised, and left of men,
    A man of pains (Heb., Makob) and
    aquainted with sickness (choli),
    And as one hiding the face from us,
    He is despised and we esteemed him not.

    4. Surely our sickness (choli) he hath borne,
    And our pains (makob) he hath carried them,
    And we - we have esteemed his plagues,
    Smitten of God and afflicted.

    5. And he is pierced for our transgressions,
    Bruised for our iniquities,
    The chastisement of our peace is on him,
    And by his bruise there is healing to us.

    You and I may be able to make precise theological statements and be able to distinguish what exactly the Gospel is from what one may perceive as merely a BENEFIT or blessing of the Gospel... but again, is everyone who fails to see that distinction going to hell? It would seem so from your comment.

    My concern in the orginal article is for the evangelical Church not to lose sight of the ministry of Divine healing; I still have that concern. In addition, I am also concerned that people who simply believe Psalm 103, Isaiah 53, and James 5 in a literal sense are not all thought to be headed straight for hell for believing a false gospel, as they are under the anathema of God.

    I do not believe that error is one that would send one to Hell, nor is T4G saying that. I only address your concern, which appears to be 'division' by answering that if "defining the gospel clearly" (which means excluding some dangerous teachings that draw focus away from it) causes division, the Scriptures seem to have an attitude of "so be it". As a practical matter, I think those teachers who seem to preach a gospel of health and wealth in this life while ALSO excluding the necessity of suffering and "taking up our own cross" in following Jesus ARE teaching "another gospel". There is a balance, but in sum I think T4G has not gone too far in merely stating that a true gospel does not offer health and wealth as assured promises in this life, especially when that has become The Central teaching in many so-called 'evangelical' corners.

    BTW, for what its worth, I do believe that supernatural healing takes place today, and that faith of individuals involved and their prayers can be a factor involved in whether or not such healing takes place. I do not think any intelligent reading of T4G's statement detracts or disparages such a view.

    Hi Steve once again,

    You write: "I do not believe that error is one that would send one to Hell"

    I'm glad to hear that. I agree.

    You also write:"nor is T4G saying that."

    Not explicitly, no, but can you understand why I am concerned that this is at least an inference?

    You write: "I only address your concern, which appears to be 'division' by answering that if "defining the gospel clearly" (which means excluding some dangerous teachings that draw focus away from it) causes division, the Scriptures seem to have an attitude of "so be it". As a practical matter, I think those teachers who seem to preach a gospel of health and wealth in this life while ALSO excluding the necessity of suffering and "taking up our own cross" in following Jesus ARE teaching "another gospel"."

    I would agree with you Steve.

    You write: "There is a balance, but in sum I think T4G has not gone too far in merely stating that a true gospel does not offer health and wealth as assured promises in this life, especially when that has become The Central teaching in many so-called 'evangelical' corners."

    I think we are in broad agreement Steve. I hope you can understand my concern that the statement, as it stands, is too broad, general and wide-sweeping, and certainly implies that all who believe health and wealth promises in the Bible are headed for hell, which is the consequence of believing something other than the true gospel.

    Its been fun graciously ironsharpening the issue with you to the point of an understanding, respectful, although perhaps slight remaining substantive disagreement on the wisdom of this particular T4G statement. Its certainly a good thing to be sensitive to the need for unity in the church centered around the gospel despite our differences.

    Post a comment

    Please enter the letter "j" in the field below: